Difference Between Cable & Interconnect

By David Lipscomb

Cables and interconnects are not always the same thing.
i Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images

The audio/video marketplace is considered confusing by many due to interchangeable terms and extensive use of acronyms. One such source of needless confusion is the differentiation between the terms "cable" and "interconnect." Although they often mean the same thing, sometimes they do not. It is important to understand the difference if you are shopping for cables or DIY cable supplies.

Stock Cable

Interconnects and cables, no matter the label, are all made from stock wire. This wire is also called cable. It comes in two, four or multiple conductor versions, depending on the application. The type of cable or interconnect that results is often a function of the connector used. Therefore, it is accurate to call an interconnect a cable.

Speaker Cable/Wire

Many times, cables are used to describe wires that connect high-level devices, such as amplifiers and speakers. Speaker cables are multi-conductor devices that carry the power from amplifiers to the speakers. This power is reflected as wattage. It's usually harmless if accidentally contacted. Speaker cables use solid or stranded copper and silver wires. This type of cable is surrounded by a dielectric to keep wires properly insulated, spaced and wound.


The term inconnects is typically used to describe any other type of wire other than speaker cables. Interconnects include RCA cables, HDMI and subwoofer cables. Lacking any significant voltage or amperage, interconnects carry low-level signals. The exception to this is the universal serial bus cable protocol and high definition multimedia interface cable protocol.

Identifying the Difference

Speaker cables and interconnects look very similar. The way to tell the two apart is by examining the connectors. The manner in which speaker cables are terminated is often a matter of preference. Some people use banana plugs, spade lugs or braided pins for easing insertion into binding posts. If you hear the term "five-way binding post," this would be why. Speaker cables, unlike interconnects, can use bare wires as connection options between speakers and amplifiers. Interconnects have specialized connectors on the ends, depending on the application. HDMI interconnects, for example, have trapezoidal flat plugs, while RCA cables use rounded collars with center pins. In most cases, there is little confusion between the connectors of a speaker cable and interconnect. This is important because the two are not interchangeable.